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Council prepares to air grivances involving

March 17, 2001

Calexico Housing Authority and its director

By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Complaints from low-income families against Calexico Housing Authority Executive Director Lupita Rios and authority commissioners have intensified to the point the Calexico City Council will step in to settle matters.

On Tuesday a hearing will be conducted during the City Council meeting to determine if the six Housing Authority commissioners should be replaced by the council or if individual commissioners should be removed.

Housing Authority residents Maria Gasca and Ema Silva will argue the case for the removal of the commissioners based on a litany of complaints they say have been ignored by Rios and what they call lies and apathy of individual commissioners.

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Gasca is president of the Housing Authority Resident Council and Silva is secretary.

They want Rios gone.

However, Rios cannot be replaced by the City Council because she is an employee of the authority.

She can be replaced by the authority commissioners, but Silva and Gasca say she has enough allies on the authority board to keep her job.

Said Rios: "Why isn't it ‘Rios is keeping her job because she is doing her job'? "

"Proof of the fact that I am doing my job is the clean financial audits of the authority and the annual evaluation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development," she said.

In 1999 the Calexico Housing Authority was 100 percent in compliance with HUD regulations, according to Rios.

Compliance with HUD regulations is not as important as respect for families living in the Housing Authority units, Gasca said.

She said she and the families of the Housing Authority feel ignored and disrespected by Rios.

"I have been president since August of 2000 but have yet to sit down with Lupita and talk with her," Gasca said.

Rios acknowledged she has not sat down and talked with Gasca.

Gasca added: "She doesn't respect me or the Resident Council."

Responded Rios: "If she's saying I'm being disrespectful I apologize, but I don't know what she is talking about."

The Resident Council is an administrative body made up of one representative from each housing project run by the authority. HUD has outlined the role of the resident council in federal regulations.

"The Housing Authority shall ensure strong resident participation in all issues and facets of its operations through the duly elected resident councils at public housing development and with jurisdiction-wide resident councils," according to Housing Authority Rule 964.18.

Gasca and Silva said the Calexico Housing Authority has not honored their roles in regard to the Resident Council.

They claim Rios has misled the people, not translated documents in order to hide information and managed resident councils that were merely appendages of her will.

The commission hasn't removed Rios, so now Gasca and Silva said they will call for the commissioners' removal — specifically, chairman John Romo.

Silva said residents pressured Mayor Javier Alatorre to nominate Romo because Romo said he would "restructure the commission and get rid of Lupita."

Romo acknowledged in the years he has been chairman he has made no attempt to do so.

If the entire commission is not replaced by the City Council on Tuesday, Gasca and Silva said they will call for Romo to be removed because he betrayed the people who supported him.

With Romo gone, Gasca and Silva said they will attempt to nominate a commissioner receptive to the people's wishes.

"We went from a dictatorship with Rios to a dictatorship with Romo," Silva said.

Gasca added: "Romo is protecting Lupita. He is a traitor."

Responded Romo: "I am not protecting Lupita. I see it as protecting the agency and the community at large, not a small interest group."

"I resent them saying that I am a traitor. I have spent years working with them and teaching them," Romo added.

He says Gasca and Silva do not represent the Housing Authority community despite their elected Resident Council positions.

Rios said because of her overseeing the day-to-day operations of the more than 300 housing units and 1,500 residents under the Calexico Housing Authority umbrella, she has been singled out by some residents.

"But I'm not going to dignify their accusations by commenting on them," Rios added.

"I have always been a strong advocate for the residents and have worked for the past 15 years to bring services to the resident community that will promote their upward mobility as a family unit," Rios said.

The recent approval of the plan to sell the Casas del Sol homes has done little to satiate some residents' desire to see Rios fired because they blame her for the eight years it took to get to this point with that program.

Jesus "Chuy" Solano, a Housing Authority commissioner, said the time it took to begin selling the homes is no longer the main reason residents are upset with Rios and the rest of the commission.

"That issue is on the backburner now … well, maybe not the back burner … more on the side burner," Solano said.

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